My state school has given me a lot more than just 11 A*s

Julia Cushion's picture
Firstly, I apologise for the self-congratulatory title but I really am here to talk about how brilliant my school is!

I am a 16 year old girl, at the start of my AS Levels. I have been going to a comprehensive school in Caerphilly, South Wales for the entirety of my secondary education, and am staying there to do my A-levels. I love the school, the teachers, the staff, the ethos, however the school took a big knock a few months ago when it was rated the 5th worst in Wales.

The school now has a bad reputation, but for no just reason. The school's A*-C percentage including English and Maths is improving, the year that included my results (2012) over 45% of girls achieved that standard. I'm pleased to say I am part of that group, and was thrilled with my results of 11 A*s, 1A and a Disitinction in Additional Maths. I am not here to blow my own trumpet, I am here to celebrate my school, and I hope my results are a testament to it.

One of those A*s, in Geography, was an after-school class that was put on every Wednesday and Thursday after school by my brilliant Geography teacher specifically for 11 of us who wanted to study the course (mostly because the teacher is so brilliant), but were unable to because there was not enough of a take-up across the school. The teacher put in a huge amount of time, and we all really, really appreciated it. My Additional Maths qualification was also done after school, with my inspiring maths teacher, who agreed to teach 10 of us the work that she believed was good preparation for AS-level (now that I am studying for my AS-level Maths, I quite agree!). For a school with below average results in maths, 7 out of the 10 of us received Distinctions, with the other 3 receiving Merits, another testament to the commitment of teachers in the school to push the academically able as well as putting huge amounts of effort into improving the A*-C %, which the government puts so much focus on.

Another reason why I am incredibly proud of my school is our amazing commitment to charity. The catchment area is very deprived, but we still manage to raise a huge amount of money for Children In Need, Red Nose Day, HIV/Aids charities and a variety of others. One that I am intimately involved in is the Anti-Bullying team within school who have 30 trained pupils mentors ranging from Years 9-13 who offer counselling and support in our special mentoring room every lunchtime. It is initiatives like this one which make our school a community, and a place where pupils can grow into young adults, I feel I certainly have in my time.

The reason I feel so passionately about the subject is I have not always been in state education, and neither have my siblings. From the ages of 4-6 I was educated in an ex-pat school in the middle east, and my sister (whom is the same age as me, as I am a triplet) has just received a scholarship to go to a prestigious boarding school, something I have very mixed emotions about.

She is amazingly intelligent with a thirst for knowledge, she has done incredibly well at GCSE level, also receiving a string of A*s and As. Her decision to go to boarding school was based around her wanting to do the International Baccalaureate, and her education is being funded by the Girls' Day School Trust.

She is enjoying many elements of the IB but finds the style of teaching and learning very different. It is the mixture of people she misses, she says. She finds the pupils to be insular without understanding for those less fortunate themselves, essentially all of the suspicions one has about boarding school girls confirmed.

Though I am saddened that she is now in such an elitist institution, I am glad that she spent most of her secondary education at my comprehensive school I watched her benefit from all the different people that you have to learn to mix with, I saw her make great relationships with staff and pupils alike, generally a great foundation of people skills and a knowledge of society that will stand her in great stead, something I fear her boarding school counterparts will never gain.
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Henry Stewart's picture
Sun, 09/12/2012 - 20:36

Julia, thank you so much for posting this. Well done on those brilliant results. And great to have you celebrating your comprehensive school here.

Janet Downs's picture
Mon, 10/12/2012 - 14:41

Julia - your inspirational story demonstrates the danger of judging schools on their overall results. I believe the "banding" system in operation in Wales is controversial. David Evans, secretary of NUT Cymru, told Wales Online:

“Many teachers feel as though the policy has hung them out to dry, undermining their considerable efforts to do the best they can for their students. We have seen teachers go well above and beyond the call of duty and this system does nothing but hit their morale and professionalism."

It would seem from your story that your teachers did go beyond the call of duty. This doesn't seem to have been taken into account by those who place schools into bands.

Read more: Wales Online

Rebecca Hanson's picture
Mon, 10/12/2012 - 21:47

Julia thanks for posting.

I strongly suspect both you and she are going to do brilliantly in the future!

Julia Cushion's picture
Tue, 11/12/2012 - 22:31

You're all incredibly kind! The school is brilliant, as I know are most comprehensives up and down the country, so I'm so glad LSN is here to counteract all the negative press!

3arn0wl's picture
Tue, 05/03/2013 - 21:55

You do credit to your school, your family and above all, to yourself.

I wish you and your sister every success.

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